Speaking on a panel at J Street’s “Making History” conference yesterday, retired Israeli brigadier general Shlomo Brom, former director of strategic planning for the Israeli Defense Forces General Staff, complained that the debate on Iran’s nuclear program and whether to use military force is frenzied and beset with false claims. “The discourse is plagued with emotions … and with a lot of disinformation,” he said.
As evidence, Brom singled out the use of holocaust metaphors to describe the Iranian threat and the fact that there is little discussion about the “political ramifications” of an attack on Iran. “I’m not so concerned about the miltiary reprocussions of a military attack,” he said, adding that he was more worried that an Israeli-initiated attack on Iran would damage the Jewish state’s relationship with the U.S. “The United States will have no choice but to be dragged into this conflict,” he said.
The Associated Press reported this month that many Israelis agree with Brom, saying the Holocaust imagery when discussing the Iran theat cheapens its memory and unnecessarily escalates tensions, particularly when President Obama is urging restraint. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni called Holocaust imagery when referring to the Iranian threat “hysterical.” Dan Halutz, a former Israeli military chief, said the Holocaust comparison was “out of place.”
However, that does not mean the Iranian nuclear program does not constitute a threat. In a recent speech, Obama warned that an Iranian bomb posed a threat to the U.S. and its allies, as well as the international non-proliferation regime. But at this point the Obama administration believes that a diplomatic end to the crisis is “best and most permanent way” to end the standoff.
More to Brom’s point, pundits and politicians regularly peddle the unconfirmed claim that Iran currently has a nuclear weapons program, but neither the IAEA, nor U.S. and Israeli intelligence — while warning that evidence suggests Iran is moving toward a nuclear weapons program — believe this to be the case.
As Brom noted, the Iran debate is also shrouded in hyperbole. GOP Presidential contender Rick Santorum accused Obama of purposely allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) once falsely claimed that Iran said it wants to launch a nuclear weapons strike against the United States.
Obama said last year that the sanctions on Iran he worked to put in place are having an “enormous bite” and he recently warned that this kind of rhetoric and misinformation damages the “broad international coalition” his administration built to confront Iran through diplomacy.